romantic walks at sunset on a tropical beach, snorkelling on a pristine coral reef, hiking through majestic rain forests, crouching over the toilet bowl, with your other end vying for position. Whoa! That pretty picture wasn't in the travel brochure, but, alas, it comes with the package for many eco-adventurers roaming developing countries.
TUMMY TOSSIf you're suddenly hit with nausea, diarrhea, fever and/or severe abdominal cramps, you've likely ingested bacteria by eating food or drinking water contaminated by stool. Your body will normally rid itself of bacteria within two days, but see a doctor if it persists, or after 12 to 24 hours for preschool children or seniors. Diarrhea leaves its victims weak and dizzy from dehydration, so down lots of liquids.
The travel clinic at Toronto General Hospital warns not to drink the H2O unless it's boiled, bottled or treated with tincture of iodine (five drops to a litre of water left to stand for 3o minutes, but it won't kill everything) or tetraglycine hydroperiodide tablets. Holistic types suggest a quarter-teaspoon of Bioxy Cleanse to 8 ounces of water.
Avoid undercooked/raw food, including salads and uncooked vegetables. Eat fruit only if you can peel it yourself. See www.tghtravel.ca for details. The travel clinic suggests you take antibiotics along with you as an insurance policy. And Immodium provides temporary relief from mild diarrhea, but don't use it for more than 48 hours.
Both bananas and dandelion extract (20 drops before meals, and avoid if on diuretics) will keep you flush with potassium, which diarrhea steals.
Whether you fall prey to diarrhea is a crap shoot, so to speak, but preventative measures may improve your odds. Conventional medicine is ambivalent on this point but alt health enthusiasts insist on acidophilus before and during your journey -- PB8 and T Dophilus don't have to be refrigerated. Or indulge in live-culture yogurt.
BEATING BUGSAfter saying goodbye to the bathroom, your ordeal may not be over. To ensure that parasites don't hitch a ride home with you, eat only well-cooked meat and fish. Alt healers swear by anti-fluke grapefruit-seed extract (15 drops squeezed into juice or water three times a day) or anti-microbial Oregon grape. If pregnant or nursing, consult a practitioner.
EXPERTS"Start a detox program one week prior to your trip. Take black walnut, artemesia (wormwood) or quassia three times daily, and increase the dosage if you get sick.' (Avoid wormwood if you're pregnant or have liver damage.)SCOTT CLACK
"Take digestive enzyme supplements such as betaine and pepsin hydrochloride, Multizyme, Digeston or Swedish Bitters with meals.'
"(Chinese formula) Huo Hsing Cheng Chi Pien stops vomiting and diarrhea.'
YUHUA WANG, PhDDoctor of Chinese medicine
"I don't know how much research has been done on acidophilus, so I can't recommend it. We're going to participate in a research project, so in the future there will be more information."
Nurse coordinator, Travel and Tropical Medicine, Toronto General Hospital *